A study titled “Treatment of Patients with Low Back Pain: A Comparison of Physical Therapy and Chiropractic Manipulation” was published in PrePrints by the author Nima Khodakarami PhD from Texas A&M University that showed that chiropractic was more a cost effective mode of care for patients with lower back pain than was physical therapy.
This report begins by noting that “Low back pain (LBP) is a chief cause of years lost to disability in the world. In the industrialized countries, LBP causes the high cost of medical expenses and loss-of-work.” It is also reported that in the U.S. alone, over $80 billion is spent directly and indirectly on LBP. Of this amount, about $7.4 to $28 billion is the cost of work loss. An additional $26 billion is the spent related to pharmacologic, non-pharmacologic and therapies. This problem is so common that, in the U.S., LBP is the second most common reason for visits to physicians.
The report notes that the common medical approach for LBP is medication and activity. If this approach does not work, physical therapy is usually medically recommended. Previous studies has shown that physical therapy is more effective for LPB than is no care or medical care alone. Similarly, the report states that chiropractic has also been shown to be a more cost effective form of care for LBP than is medical care. However, few studies had previously compared chiropractic care to physical therapy for LBP.
This report compared the two types of care for the short-term results to see which was more effective and cost efficient. The results showed that, on average, chiropractic care required 20 percent fewer visits than physical therapy. They also found that 66 percent of patients who went to the chiropractor experienced complete wellness immediately after their first visit. This was compared to only 56 percent of patients that went to a physical therapist who felt complete wellness after their first visit.
When comparing medical care to non-drug forms of care, the study reports that both “chiropractic care and physical therapy are shown to be the superior nonpharmacologic strategies for treating LBP.” When comparing chiropractic care to physical therapy care for the total costs of care for six months, it was shown that chiropractic care was less expensive than was physical therapy care for patient suffering with LBP. Chiropractic care also resulted in less days of disability and work loss.
The conclusion of the report stated, “The findings showed that in the chiropractic group, the total average cost was $48.56 lower than the physical therapy group, and daily adjusted life years (DALY) was 0.0043 higher than the physical therapy group. Chiropractic care was shown to be a cost-effective alternative compared with physical therapy for adults with at least three weeks of low back pain over six months.”